Day 1 in Bangalore (Dec 10, 2012)

A sticker in a tuk tuk cab's window that says TIGER and features Salman Khan pointing a gun.
A sticker in a tuk tuk cab’s window that says TIGER and features Salman Khan pointing a gun.

There are certain facts you absorb about India, even if you’re not particularly trying. Like: everyone knows that the Hindus here are fond of cows, so cows can been seen in many social situations that cows may not normally be invited to otherwise.

Or: It’s a land of extremes. You’ll see poverty right next to extravagance, new shiny buildings near broken walls and sidewalks.

Also: The art of driving is very much an art, a negotiation over space between drivers who improvise, like four-wheeled jazz musicians, determining right of way, how many lanes to allow at a given point, and how closely they feel comfortable stopping so as not to run over school children.

I can tell you that this is all true. I saw cows by the road side eating food scraps and I walked around a cow on a street full of vendors, on my way to buy some art supplies with Amanda Summers and my work colleague Freeda. I also passed a dog that was going at full trot in the direction opposite us on a sidewalk, as if it were trying to catch a bus. No collar, no owner. Just a dog on a mission.

I’ve now ridden in the back seat of an auto-rickshaw, or “auto” as they’re called familiarly. It was in one of these that we were forced to pause so as not to smear school children across the front of the windshield. And yet, the driver showed no anger and the children showed no fear. The auto stopped. All was fine. Everything was working as it should.

The key to being driven around Bangalore is to trust. There are so many people who live here, as you may not, and they know how things work. So there’s no reason to pay that much attention to your driver, letting your mind play the game of “I WOULD START BRAKING NOW” or the game of “REALLY, THAT PERSON IS JUST WALKING OUT INTO THE STREET NOW?” Those are games you can’t win. Let them go.

My coworkers in town are lovely people, many of which I’ve know for quite some time, though not managed to work in proximity for any length of time. We joined two of them, Sapna & Freeda, for an amazing lunch that consisted of a tandoori platter containing just about every type of animal you could fit in a tandoor and some mutton biriyani (a rice dish). Freeda then got the job of baby-sitting us today, taking us out of the office mid-afternoon to practice crossing streets, navigating broken sidewalks, using the local ATM and visiting a super-market where we replaced our lost shampoo and picked up some interesting snacks. She also suffered a flat tire driving us around and back to the flat, where fortunately enough, our host’s driver was able to replace the flat while we checked work emails

We then hung out a bit at the flat until night fell and we could eat again and we got to traverse the city streets at night, walking around food vendors cooking on sidewalks, having sights pointed out like the local bar where Freeda says only men would be hanging out. “Women don’t go in there.” “Smart,” I offered.

I also saw a local eating establishment that had a logo by Alicia Souza, an artist in Bangalore with a really fun style who I’ve been a fan of ever since I received a “You Know You’re An Indian…” mug that featured her illustrations as a gift from my India-office colleagues years back. You can follow her here on Facebook, actually, if you want to see why I remarked “I could recognize her style a mile away!” while snapping the photo, even though I was only 20 ft. away, my claim unchallenged.

It’s getting late now. There’s more I could tell you, but pictures are going to have to fill in for now. My typing was just interrupted by the third mosquito in this room this evening. I’m taking the interruption as a request by the mosquito to join its two other relatives who I already killed in this bedroom earlier today. Maybe they would leave me alone if I put together a mosquito-shaped stencil and started painting them on the wall for every one I take out, like a WWII fighter pilot.

If anyone knows anything about mosquito pattern recognition when it comes to the abstraction of their body shape in stencil format, with special regard to connecting that pictorial representation to a strongly implied threat, please let me know.